Sum and Substance

“Sum And Substance”: An often-used phrase; it’s probably an impossibility to come through any of today’s school systems without hearing this popular mathematical term. In fact, simply stated, it’s nothing more than the aggregate of two or more numbers being determined by plain and simple addition: (like) The sum of 6 and 8 is 14.

But the above has to do with school, when simple rules prevail; when one and one must add up to the sum of two; and when it doesn’t, if you’re the student presenting the alternate answer, the outcome will be a grade certainly in the fail category. As a matter of fact… in the real world, true incorrectness brings with it the same results as any remedial study being taught in our schools today. A wrong answer is just what it is: a wrong answer; that is, unless you’re attempting to be:

A) A “PCer” (politically correct).
B) A politician making a speech.
C) An actor in a play where the outcome doesn’t make any sense at all.
D) Someone who tries to make rhyme or reason out of any subjective form; including acting.

It appears to me, what applies to us in order to live any form or even a modicum of a successful life, would be the ability to understand the spoken and written word in the language of one’s heritage.

Within the confines of what I have chosen to pursue, a career of being a director and educator, it occurred to me many years ago the language of my heritage was not completely singular.

My substance is the body of words created by every language I become privy to, and therefore the sum of which generates an ability to honestly communicate with those experiencing the intention of my given direction.

As an example, I could compliment an actor by saying, “You’re the summe,” from old French, or “summa” from the Latin; but instead I choose to say, “You’re the top.” The actor, in turn says thank you without knowing he or she has benefited by no less than the heritage of three or more languages.

Without belaboring my point regarding heritage, here’s another short example of what can be gleaned from the origin of a word or phrase. An actor about to read for a role in a play is given a side to study. The side, in addition to the lines he or she will be reading, contains a short description of the scene to be played.

The person who wrote the description must have been a lawyer, or a politician. After reading the breakdown, our actor was thoroughly confused. It read: “Jeb expresses his opinions based on his broadly comprehensive gist of the situation.”

Da harv’s translation: Jeb’s simple substance was his many years of telling it like it is. He reckons it’s the truth! In this case, “reckons” and “sum” are synonymous.

Note: You’ve heard cowboys say the phrase “I reckon it’s the truth.” What you’re hearing is far more than singular. It’s Old World French, as well as Latin, as well as South West. And guess what… it doesn’t stop there.

ORIGIN: Old English (ge)recenian [recount, relate] ; related to Dutch rekenen and German rechnen ‘to count (up).’ Early senses included [give an account of items received] and [mention things in order,] which gave rise to the notion of ‘calculation’ and hence of ‘coming to a conclusion.’

And so I write of sum and substance as my own personal way of clearing what separates fact from fiction. I listen as closely as I can to what each of us as individuals deem of importance.

If you are an actor by trade and your substance is what is offered as the truth, regardless of its origin, then and only then will the sum of your performance bear with it the quality of the success you may seek.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *